Connecting With Your Audience
How you connect with your audience is the same thing as your author platform. And a reminder, which I talked about earlier, that platform is made up of how you connect with your people, both online, with social media and so forth, and in person: art shows, speaking, conferences that sort of thing. I think when people, again when people hear platform they tend to think you just mean twitter, or something. But it's really a lot more complex than that. Book promotion The reason you want to connect with your audience the reason we want to have clarity around your platform, is for purposes of book promotion. A dedicated audience is a huge asset when promoting a book. While I never wanna discourage anybody from pitching book ideas just cause they don't have a huge platform. Because, in fact, I do books all the time with people who don't have huge platforms when the books are amazing and sell well. But if you do have a huge platform, that is something you have going for you, for sure. Because...
, and the reason for this is, and Lisa mentioned this when I was talking with her, authors absolutely need to be prepared to partner with their publisher to help promote the book. I think there was maybe a time I'm not sure if it was a real time in the past or like a mythical time in the past where authors just wrote books, turned them in, and then publishers just went and promoted them, and while the author was off busy writing their next book or something. And the author like didn't do anything and the publisher just like did the promotion and that was it. And maybe there was a such a time because maybe that made sense at one point. But now the reality is so much the case that creators have access to people that the publisher cannot get to. Right? If you have a following on Instagram, even if it's not a big following, you know? Even if its, I don't know like a small professional following might be two or three thousand people. That doesn't sound like that many maybe compared to someone who has a hundred thousand followers, or whatever. But if those are really two or three thousand people who might legitimately, seriously wanna buy your book on top of all the people who wandered by it in the stores, saw it and discovered it for the first time. You've just upped your sales numbers by connecting with those people. And there is no way for the publisher to reach those people. Who knows who they are? They're out there in the ether connected to you by this little digital strings. And they're not connected to the publisher in any way that we know of. So we really have to be active, equal partners now with our authors. Where we're promoting it to everybody we know how to reach, like the media. And you're promoting it to everybody you know how to reach, like your fans. So I always wanna make that expectation clear upfront because I think it can be a little bit of a downer for people sometimes who are like, "I just wanna go make more pictures "I don't wanna spend my time promoting a book." This is another difference between authors and freelancers. Freelancers, you turn some work in. You got paid for it like that's it. Nobody expects you to do anything else. But, if you're an author and its your intellectual property, it's your project, it's your ownership, the hope and expectation is very much that you will then turn around and help promote the book, both online and physically. As I say, you don't have to be discouraged if you don't have huge numbers. Other things that drive book sales that don't have anything to do with author platform. I do want to mention this here just because this is not like the only thing driving book sales. It's just one thing. But other things are, um, gifting occations I talked about that a little bit earlier. How a great graduation gift book year after year book sellers will bring it back in. You know, maybe they didn't have any copies But it's like March and graduation season's coming in a month or two. They'll stock up and put it out, every year. So gifting occasions are huge. Author expertise. I've got a book coming I think it was in the very first slide of our little splash page, called the Art of Feminism. Which is literally two hundred years from like the Suffragist Movement to today of feminist art and it's amazing. And it was put together by the woman who literally wrote the textbook on this subject that they use in colleges, you know. And now she's brought her expertise to a much more accessible coffee table sort of art book. It doesn't matter that you've never heard of this person. As soon as you read her author bio you're like oh clearly this is the woman you want to hear about this subject from because she knows her stuff. Another one is something that, for lack of a better word, I call the alchemy of the object and I think this is something that Chronicle is very good at. And I'll pull out a book that's actually called Creative Alchemy to punnily prove my point. So this book is basically a reading book. It has text. It doesn't have illustrations. It has black and white text. It has a meditation ritual experiment for I think it's 88 days to shake up your creative practice. Now, our designer-sourced stock photography of marbleized papers. So she sourced all these images. Production department went nuts with all this marbleizing and foil and good stuff on the cover. This is a book that when I read it as a manuscript as a printed out word document, It was great! I thought it was awesome! It was a great read. I really liked it and wanted to do it. But, this makes it so much more than the sum of its parts. It becomes this tactile, touchy, physical thing that even before you quite know what this is you sort of covet it assuming its to your taste. So, that object quality is another huge selling thing for books. In terms of reaching your audience and connecting with your fans, a few best practices: If you are an illustrator or a fine artist or a photography, have a website. I kind of can't believe I actually have to even say this at this point. But it's amazing the number of times I've gone to look someone up and they just don't have a website. And it can be very, very simple. Just a few images and contact information and whatever. It doesn't have to be some huge elaborate thing. But I wanna be able to go to a place where I can quickly and easily see like: Who's this person? What's their deal? And then this is me diverging perhaps from common wisdom a little bit. But I think it's really important to find the social media channels that work for you. Not everything. I think that maybe, especially a few years ago there was this sort of feeling you had to have a presence on all the major platforms, and you had to maintain them all, and this was so important, and people were stressing out about it. And I think for one thing it's just not me. Like, you can't maintain that. It's too much. And also if you hate something, if you hate a particular platform and you hate using it, the content you put on their is not gonna be very good. You're resentment is gonna bleed through. You're gonna be like "Yeah, Oh God, I have to go post on blah de blah now. "Here you go." (laughs) So, doing things that feel organic and exciting and where you're gathering a community of people that you like and where you feel like it showcases your work If you make videos, you're gonna wanna be on YouTube or that organically makes sense for your medium. I think that for most visual creatives Instagram is kind of a no-brainer. Because it is such a visual platform. And I know people that go further. I know a design instructor who just forces all her design students to start Instagram accounts, if they don't have them. Cause she's just like, "No. "If you're gonna be a designer "or an illustrator you have to have this. "This is the rule." I'm not gonna go quite that far if you absolutely found it terrible for some reason. But, probably that's the one that we should all have. But really putting your energy where it makes the most sense for you and your work. And where you're not forcing yourself to do something that feels inorganic or inauthentic. Cause that's the thing about online promotion is it's so much about authenticity. It's about having a real voice in a space and if you're sort of forcing yourself to do something you don't want to be doing it's probably not gonna be very authentic. Okay, more ideas for connecting. So these are things that not everyone thinks of so I'm just throwing them out there. One is submitting your work to blogs and...I feel like you probably know, or if you don't you can probably do some research and find out, the blogs in your arena. So, for one style of art I would say boom with seven o's, "booooooom!" Exclamation point is kind of one of the top art blogs. Jealous Curator is another one. And then on the other side there's things like Design Sponge or Cup of Joe's are more lifestyle things. Almost all those places accept submissions. Do they publish everything and submit it? Of course not. Especially if they're very popular, if they get a lot of submissions. But again, it's a little bit like buying a lottery ticket. Why not? Sure, throw your hat in the ring because the exposure it can get you can be amazing. And similarly, submitting your work to aggregator feeds or aggregator hashtags. I know artists who do this so well. I don't know that much about it but you know the thing where someone'll post something on Instagram and then they'll drop down I think they use little dots. Period, period, period, period. So that it's not aesthetically unpleasing but down at the bottom they've got a chunk of hashtags. And they're actually these super weird, its like, "Photo, Friday, Flower, something" and you're like, "What?" "I don't even know what that is. What is that?" But its not there for you, as the casual looker. It's because those are aggregator tags that people go to look at to find the type of content. So, people who love to look at flowers on Friday or whatever go to look at this thing. That's a made up one. Don't think you can really use that, cause you can't. So, figuring out what those feeds or hashtags in your arena are and submitting to those guys. And if you're interested in freelance work submitting your portfolio to publishers that you're into via the submission guidelines. It'll be on their website for consideration for freelance work like we talked about. And then ideas for connecting in the real world, which is just as important. People love to talk about how to connect online but there's also connecting in real life. You wanna think about the places that potential fans as well as art directors and editors frequently discover new talent. And these are just some of the ones I use a lot. So I figure other people probably use them too. Gallery shows, if you have the opportunity to do an art show of your work. You never know who's gonna see it there. Trade shows and conferences. This is so industry specific that it's a little hard. Like, if you're an illustrator, the ICON Illustration Conference that happens every two years is amazing. If you're more of a craftsperson, something like renegade, or SF...I forget the name of it, in various craft fairs. Finding the in-person venues that make sense for what it is that you make and do. Commercial work and service design? I find a fair number of illustrators, you know I'll see someone did a ceramics collection with Urban Outfitters, or something like that. So I look at that fairly often. Editorial work. I know a lot of people are looking at usually the big, big publications. The New York Times, New Yorker, whatever. But I think also their local paper, or smaller publications, online newsletters that they like for who's getting commissioned to do editorial illustration as a way of finding new talent. And of course Instagram. And I think everybody pokes around in Instagram differently. Some people use the explorer page. Some people use hashtags. Some people look at what their friends liked. Everybody's got a different way of doing it. But I think that most editors and art directors are noodling around in there, someway or another. Yes?
If you have done work in the past, say like editorial work from a big magazine or whatever, but it was kind of one-off. How do you leverage that? Like if you don't already have a big social media following.
I think having a website that shows your portfolio is the first and foremost straightforward way. You probably already do. And I think it's fine to revisit old work. Maybe not all the time, but in your feeds. When you're talking about your work you can sort of say, "Oh my God, remember that time "that I did that illustration for the New York Times "and it was amazing?" and showing it again. You know, you can keep talking about those things. Just because they were topical and happened at a moment in time doesn't mean you can't bring them back up later. I'm trying to think if there's anything else. I feel like I'm missing something...on this point. But, I do think it's also people see that stuff way later. Especially if the article was also featured on the website of, even if it was like a daily newspaper but it's on the newspaper's website and someone sends me a link of some article that's six months old. They're like, "Hey, you should really read this article "about this thing" and I go to read it and there's this illustration. So I think they do continue to have a passive life that you can't see but that is out there. Which is a little hard. You just kind of have to believe probably people are seeing it, you know. (laughs) Alright, let's see. Oh my god you guys! We have reached the end of the slides, almost. Okay, so basically to sum up this whole journey that I just sort of walked you through. It can be a lot of hard work, and Lisa talked about that. Writing a book, putting together a book is a big job and a lot of work and I don't wanna sugarcoat that. But it is extremely gratifying and just because its big and hard does not mean it's out of reach. I think sometimes it's tempting to think Maybe I just think this because I have an eight year old daughter and I talk with her a lot about doing hard things and how we can do hard things. Just because something is hard doesn't mean we can't do it. It just means it's gonna take some time and some work. So it can feel like this impossible out of reach thing because of the movie with Tom Cruise getting a million dollar advance or whatever. But it is actually somewhat more doable, and accessible, and achievable than that, as I hope some of what I've been sharing has perhaps shown. Creatives, just like you, just like me, just like regular people, author books all the time. And the feeling of pride, it's why I talked about this book it's why I asked Lisa this same question about holding a finished book in your hand. There is an emotional residence about having a finished book, honestly regardless of how it sells. Honestly regardless of anything. Knowing that you did this and now here it is between two covers, books have power and meaning in our world. And being inside of one and on the cover of one is extremely exciting and gratifying. It's something to be very proud of and I think that's a big part of why I want to encourage people to feel unintimidited and feel empowered to submit their book ideas because I think the more people that have that end experience it's very, very valuable. I also wanted to touch on this thing that you hear all the time of people saying like, "Everyone has a book in them." Which is...true but also makes it sort of facile. It makes it sound as if we could all just easily sit down and just like, "Oh, I just wrote a book." I mean it's sort of dismissive of something that is actually a big, hard, serious thing. But it is also true because being an author is someone who actually went to the work of bringing that book out of them. Like, it didn't just sit there in the pit of their stomach for the rest of their lives. They actually did the work and made this happen. And that's why it is something to be so immensely proud of. So, if there's like one takeaway from this whole class it's make it happen, do it. Don't just dream it, like actually set about taking the first steps towards working to make this happen. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. WatsonPayne, WatsonPayne, and Bridget.W.Payne for some unknown reason, I swear I didn't pick that. It just gave it to me.